If some Spiv came up to you in the street, or the pub, and promised you they could find you loads of friends that very same day (for a small fee of course) what would you think?
What sort of friends would they be? How could they possibly value a relationship with you when they know nothing about you? How could they conceivably add value to your life when they can be bought so easily?
And so it is with Social Media. "Followers" on Twitter, or "Friends" and "Fans" on Facebook dont have to be members of your extended family, or even people you're ever likely to want to spend "real" time with. But they should add value to your Social Networking experience in some way, and they should expect they same from you.
As in life, your "Friends" in Social Media say something about who you are. So if your Follower List is rammed with thousands of patently promotional or prostituted Social Media profiles, don't be surprised if someone you would really like to have in your Social Media Network judges you by the company you keep.
And before a horde of Search Engine-obsessed code monkeys beat a path to my door, yes I know there are notable gains to be had via Social Media participation when it comes to Search Performance. The point is if you're active and add value in Social media you'll be popular, gain followers, follow back, build relationships,create links back to your website AND improve your search engine rankings.....
In other words, be active, sociable, add value, treat people with respect and you'll reap the benefits of Social Media - commercially and personally. As in life, the lure of instant gratification may be strong but the rewards are invariably short lived.